Article

Ethiopia

David H. Shinn

in African Studies

ISBN: 9780199846733
Published online March 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0139
Ethiopia

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Ethiopia is perhaps the origin of humankind; it is sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest civilization, the second most populous country in all of Africa, and the world’s most populous landlocked country. Ethiopian governance, which dates back more than 2,000 years, until recently had a close association with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that began in the 5th century. Muslims and Protestants have increased in percentages and influence in the past several decades. Ethiopia has a long history of highly centralized and autocratic leadership, most of it under kings and emperors. Ethiopia was never colonized, although Italy militarily occupied it from 1936 until 1941. Following the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, a left-wing military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled until 1991. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) under the leadership of Meles Zenawi deposed the Mengistu government and instituted a policy of ethnic federalism that delegated limited decision-making authority to the regions. Meles died in 2012 and was replaced by Hailemariam Desalegn. Although the government has had regular elections since 1991, opposition political parties often boycott them and routinely charge that they are not free and fair. Ethiopia lacks significant, known natural resources, but it experienced an impressive GDP growth rate from 2007 through 2017. The economy is based on agriculture and the service sector. Ethiopia is geographically diverse, with both highland and lowland cultures, and includes some eighty-five different ethnic groups. While Amharic serves as the lingua franca, ethnic tension and ethnic politics are an important component of daily life. In the late 1990s, HIV/AIDS seriously threatened Ethiopian society; international intervention and a belated strong response by the government significantly reduced the problem. Growing ethnic tension in 2016 resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. Geographically at the center of the troubled Horn of Africa, Ethiopia has borders with Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia/Somaliland, Sudan, and South Sudan. The Horn is one of the most conflict-prone regions of the world, and Ethiopia usually contributes to or is affected by conflict in neighboring countries. Ethiopia is the source of 86 percent of the water reaching the Aswan Dam in Egypt. This has resulted in periodic tension with Egypt and neighboring Sudan over Nile Basin water usage. Ethiopia has one of the strongest, best organized, and most experienced military forces in Africa. It is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, hosts the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, which adds to its influence. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on Eritrea; previously part of Ethiopia, Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993 to become an independent state.

Article.  13379 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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